When I hear the words, “persecuted Christians,” I tend to think of our Christian brothers and sisters in faraway countries who face starvation, hardship, torture, and death at the hands of hateful and fanatic religious sects. The situation is indeed horrible! The reality is, however, that Christians are persecuted everywhere throughout the world, even here in the United States.
Social media is censoring posts that display solid Christian values, the school systems are working hard to cram anti-Christian ideologies down the throats of our children. Our right to worship has been severely diminished. Churches, shrines, and religious monuments have been desecrated and destroyed. Relics of saints have been viciously strewn about. Civil conversations have promptly turned uncivil simply by our having stated our beliefs – even when we have done so in the most charitable way.
It’s rough out there for Christians.
What we’re enduring today is not unlike the fate of Christians in the 13th century. Christians were captured by Muslims and held for ransom on a regular basis. It was a serious situation that grieved St. Peter Nolasco. On August 1, 1218 the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him as well as to his confessor, St. Raymond of Penafort, and to King James I of the Kingdom of Aragon. She came to acknowledge and encourage St. Peter Nolasco in his Divinely-inspired mission to establish a religious order that would ransom Christians from Muslim captivity.
Soon, word of the apparition spread throughout the kingdom and beyond. St. Peter Nolasco named his new religious foundation the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, also known as the Mercedarians. Shortly thereafter, the new order was established and approved by Pope Gregory IX and from then on worked to raise the necessary money to ransom Christians who’d been captured and enslaved by Muslims. If necessary, they would offer themselves as payment for the release of their fellow Christians. Eventually, a feast was instituted under the title of Our Lady of Ransom and observed annually on September 24 by the universal Church.
In this time of unleashed Christian persecution, it’s not money that will affect our ransom but rather prayer, fasting, sacrifice, diligence, and vigilance. Undoubtedly, there are tangible things that can and should be done to win our freedom such as passing laws that protect life and uphold our right to worship, sending money and aid to impoverished Christians and supporting other relief efforts, and campaigns to rescue imprisoned Christians and squelch dangerous fanatic groups. I might also add that there are many non-Christians who suffer such fate and we as Christians are obligated to serve them as well to the best of our ability.
With the darkness surrounding us, we need Our Lady of Ransom now more than ever! Because of her, we have a great reason for hope and joy despite current events. She ransomed the Christians in the 13th century; she can and will ransom us now if we turn to her in humility, sincerity, and fervency. We can and will be released from this enslavement if we unite, stand up for our faith, and live a life of prayer, penance, and almsgiving. It’s a tough situation, but not an impossible one. Our Lady of Ransom, have mercy on us! Our Lady of Ransom, pray for us!
Prayer to Our Lady of Ransom
O God, who by means of the most glorious Mother of Thy Son
was pleased to give new children to Thy Church
for the deliverance of Christ’s faithful
from the power of the heathen;
grant, we beseech Thee,
that we who love and honor her as the foundress of so great a work may,
by her merits and intercession,
be ourselves delivered from all sin
and from the bondage of the evil one.
Through the same Christ, our Lord.
Image: Our Lady of Ransom, Wikimedia Commons